LANSING, Mich. — The former vice president of the United Autoworkers (UAW) union has been sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for taking a $250,000 kickback for a watch contract.
It is alleged that Ashton, the highest ranking auto industry figure sentenced in a corruption scandal that has led to 15 convictions, received the kickback from a chiropractor and left 58,000 watches to rot as the batteries died in a UAW warehouse.
In the latest punishment in what the government calls “systemic” corruption at the UAW, Joe Ashton had hoped for house arrest saying his wife has multiple sclerosis and needs constant care.
U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman said he needed to send a message despite Ashton and his family pleading for leniency.
Friedman said prison is appropriate for a crime that shook the faith of thousands of union members.
“There’s way too many victims, the whole union, the whole trust situation, and we have to send a message. We have to let people know that the criminal justice system is not a system that’s only for people on the streets selling drugs and things of that nature, but it’s a system where people get punished for things that they do that are bad things,” Friedman said. He also described the ex-General Motors board member as someone who had done many good things, but had been greedy in this instance.
Previously Ashton, 72, of Ocean View, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors recommended a 34-month prison sentence. They anticipated a request by the defense for a lesser sentence due to COVID-19, and suggested that Ashton’s date to report to prison be delayed.
Since 2017,11 union officials have pleaded guilty to crimes.
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